Whoever You Are, You’re Not Alone.

9pm. Café Mishka’s on 2nd street, Davis, CA . 1995.

One week in to the fall quarter of my senior year and I’m already stressed. I want to finish the Poli-sci incomplete which hangs over my head, stealing peace of mind and calm. This requires writing a 15-page paper on feminism, abortion and single-issue voters. I’ve made some progress, but much remains to be done and since Shields Library is either social central or a morgue, I can’t get it done there. So I have come to the newest and brightest spot in the tiny constellation of “third-places” which dot Davis ‘ downtown area. Mishka’s is just quiet enough, especially on a Friday night, and it also has excellent food. I order a sandwich, the name of which escapes me over a decade later. It has pesto and roasted red peppers, a detail I will never forget, because of what happens later on that night.

I’m halfway through my dinner and it’s 8:30pm. My cell phone rings and I answer, filled with trepidation. My father’s voice barks profanely over the line, “Where the HELL are you? What kind of life do you think you have? One where you can go as you please, party, take drugs? What have I told you about this world, kunju? It is a dangerous place and if you are not careful, you will end up abducted, raped and murdered somewhere and I will have to identify your body and then I will kill myself and then your sister will be without sibling or father. All because you want to PARTY.”

Sigh.

“Daddy, I’m actually-”

“What? You’re actually WHAT? You’re about to lie to me, I know you better than you know yourself. Save your BS for someone else, edi.”

“I’m not lying, I’m studying. I have a huge paper due-

“Due on SATURDAY? Perhaps on Sunday? Bullshit!”

“No, Daddy, I’m trying to pace myself and-”

“You’re trying to PARTY!”

“I am NOT. Look, you’re REALLY starting to piss me off. For once I’m doing the right thing and this is the thanks I get? Why do I bother? I’m sitting here, surrounded by books and papers, desperately trying to remember my thesis statement and why I even chose it, and YOU think I’m out dry-humping someone.”

“You are lying!”

“I am not!”

“Edi mundi, I can HEAR the party. There is music behind you. How stupid you think your Daddy isÂ…no library plays music.”

“I’m not AT the library.”

“So you ADMIT your lies???”

“No, I’m at a Café-”

“Oho—a café! You are not a French intellectual! Good girls, serious girls study in the damned library, not in the CAFÉ.”

“I’m going to go.”

“go back to your party, you mean.”

“No, this is crap. I’m being good while a million other kids are being bad and you only assume the worst about me.”

“Either you come home RIGHT NOW or you don’t come home at all.”

“I’m in the middle of writing this, I’ll be home in an hour.”

“You could be pregnant in an hour!”

“Is that all you think about? I’ll be done when I finish this page.”

“Don’t bother. The door will be locked. Now you can party all night long.”

I slam my phone down, attracting the attention of the four other people who are lame enough to be on 2nd on a Friday night, instead of the bars which dot nearby G street. They return to their respective books and assignments within seconds. I try and take a deep breath. “Finish your sandwich, if you can’t write, eat”, I tell myself.

I do and I decide to try and crank out as much of my paper as I can. This café closes in two hours but the all-night reading room is available after that. Surely everyone will calm the fuck down by morning.

Pushing my plate away, I desperately tried to focus but it was no use. My heart was racing, I could feel my pulse in my right temple, underneath the palm of my hand. I couldn’t get over the injustice of the situation. I’d never been the studious type, you were more likely to catch me sunning myself on the quad, fantastic fiction nearby than poring over assigned readings. This “new leaf” I had gingerly turned over was a huge change for me, one that I wanted to sustain.

But I couldn’t. Not right then at least.

I thought back to how proud of myself I was, just before my father called and upset my delicate equilibrium and resolve. I mentally rewound even further to how disciplined I had been, five minutes after sitting down, when I resisted the impulse to answer my phone, which had started buzzing while displaying the phone number of quite possibly the cutest Indian boy at school.

Reminiscing replaced the revving in my chest with butterflies in my tummy and I was grateful for it, as I gave in to the wonder of it all, that me, Delta Gamma, College Republican, Greek Orthodox, sole-brown-intern-at-the-Congressman’s-and-then-Governor’s office ME was suddenly desi. I had attended my first ISA meeting and to my consummate astonishment, I had emerged unscathed. I didn’t have brown friends (see: list above) even though I had had the same Sikh boyfriend for my first three years of college. Beyond his immediate circle of friends and cousins, I didn’t even know the names of any of the other South Asians on campus.

I gave in to temptation and called the butterfly provider back. He was enthusiastic but preoccupied, since he was helping his friends set up for a party. “You should come,” he insisted. “It will be fun and IÂ…wouldn’t mind seeing you. I meanÂ…if you’re free.”

Could I do it all? The urge to go to the party nearly overwhelmed me. I had lived at home for all four years of college, had been required to be home by dinner each night and had never procured a fake I.D. simply because I never even came close to needing one. Though my sorority helped me feel a little bit more like a normal college student, I hadn’t attended a single party, with the notable exception of the delta gamma spring formal, and the only reason I got away with THAT is because my date was the ultimate Malayalee dream boy, flying cross-country from Harvard Med to take me to the ball.

Even my stricter-than-a-Muslim Daddy couldn’t turn down THAT opportunity to potentially get me settled. As much fun as playing Cinderella had been, much to the horrified chagrin of my father, I couldn’t do a long distance thing, not at age 20. Enter tall, cute LOCAL brown boy with dimplesÂ…oh, the power of dimples. I snapped my notebook shut, shoved library books in my bag, gathered index cards and pens and left. A few hours of fun to take my mind off things and then I’d head to the library and pick up where I left off. Perfect.

It was 9:30 and I looked for parking in South Davis, where the rich kids lived. :p Of course I was paralleling an S-class but in my defense, it was ten years old, haters. I flipped down the sun visor, so grateful that tiny lights automatically turned on when you opened the mirror. I didn’t feel like touching up my lipstick and I was pleased that I really didn’t have to. I made my way towards unit whatever-it-was while giving silent thanks for always being the overdressed-one, since it meant I could go straight to this without worrying about the appropriateness of my clothes. The butterflies within had mutated in to pterodactyls, wreaking havoc on my insides. What was I doing? I had never been to a brown party. Who the hell would I talk to or even hang out with? This was stupid. I turned around and started to walk back to my car.

“No,” I told myself, stopping. “This is why everyone thinks you’re a stuck-up oreo of a bitch. You’re braver than this. They won’t bite. They’re just Indian kids.”

Inhaling deeply, I steeled myself for what I thought would be an innocent though stressful adventure. When they opened the door after my knock, everyone was shocked to see me but I tried not to freeze. “Dimples” rushed up to me, delight on his face replacing pterodactyls with butterflies, which are a much better fit for my stomach, really.

“HEY. I’m so glad you came. I’m almost done setting stuff upÂ…do you want to wait for me?” He read the look on my face which that question had inspired correctly. “Do youÂ…even know anyone here?” I shook my head negatively.

He introduced me to a few people on the couch and promised he’d be back soon. They were tentative at first, but inherent brown proclivities soon murdered hesitation and then they were asking me about whom I knew and where I was from and what I majored in and if I knew what graduate school I would be attending. Sigh.

“Dimples” swooped in, mercifully distracting all involved in the interrogation. “Here,” he said, handing me a wine cooler. “You’re not relaxed enough. This should help.” He left with a wink as I looked at the red bottle in front of me. “Wait—“ I called after him. “I donÂ’t drinkÂ…I…” He was gone and everyone was looking at me like I had a goiter. My face was probably the same color as the liquid I was looking at, which was far too cold in my right hand.

I had never had one before and to be polite, I pretended to take a sip, letting it all wash right back in to the bottle. It was fizzy awfulness, but it served its purpose; everyone relaxed and went back to their drinking, now that they were certain that I wasnÂ’t some prude who would remind them of how disobedient they were. I had drank alcohol before, at home, with my father at dinner. Wine with meals and liquers afterwards, with the occasional Drambuie or Champagne on special occasions. But I had never had anything like this. I had no desire to start now, not with the keys to my car lodged uncomfortably in my front jeans pocket. I set the alco-pop down.

I didn’t have time to write a review of bad alcohol mentally because the door opened and hordes of people descended on the apartment. The lights went out and the sound was immediately ratcheted up. “Dimples” rushed to my side. “FINALLY, I get to hang out with youÂ…I was so scared you’d leave. This isn’t exactly your scene.”

“I’m fineÂ…it’s good to do new stuff. New year, new friends.” I was stammering gibberish from the nearness of him. When he asked if I wanted to dance, I blushed and nodded. Off we went. I enjoyed about ten minutes of it before he got yanked away to settle some predictable drama. My phone rang and I walked outside to get away from noise.

“HELLO?”

“Hi daddy.”

“I was calling to say I was wrong for assuming the worst about you, but it turns out my suspicions were correct. You ARE at a party. Oh, why did I get cursed with such a worthless daughter? Why? That’s it. I’ve had it with you. You have no father. I am dead to you, hear me? Dead! My daughter was a good girl, not a party girl.”

“Daddy, stop-”

“Enjoy your PARTY, edi!”

Click.

I was consumed with rage and sadness. No matter how hard I tried, it was never good enough. Moments later I was called over to the other side of the patio, where several people were engaged in some kind of drinking contest. I politely declined, since I already felt guilty for touching the wine cooler. “Dimples” showed up and asked if I wanted another.

“NoÂ…I better not. I have to drive.”

“Oh that’s right…you live at home, don’t you?”

“Yeah. But it might be too late for me to head there tonight…”

He laughed easily. “You’re not going to. You think I’m going to invite you to a party at my house and then let you do something dangerous? I like you. You’ll be fine. A bunch of people are crashing here afterwards.”

My eyebrows shot up and I started to object, but he cut me off.

“They’re all GIRLS. It’s okay. Chill. You look like you’ve had a rough week. You need to relax.”

I couldn’t believe what possibilities lay before me. Wherever I looked, people slammed shots and sipped beer which had been tapped from the two kegs to my right. The makeshift dancefloor (read: space between three couches) was packed and everyone else was having so much fun. “I’m a bad girl anyway, right?” I muttered to myself. “Might as well have some fun.”

Three+ years of non-stop school (I did summer sessions each year) and dozens of turned-down-invites to parties suddenly came to mind as my anger grew. My father treated me like I was some harlot and THIS was my first party ever! I was a Senior in College! I wasn’t normal! THIS was normal. I considered my future, bleak with law school and fighting off attempts at arranged marriage. When someone handed me a red solo cup full of beer and motioned for me to join the sloppy contest taking place, I smiled slightly and turned towards my opponents. Time to make up for lost college.

Thirty minutes later, I was tipsy. Very tipsy. Or so “Dimples” discovered when he found me on the patio. When he led me inside to dance, he informed me that I was VERY intoxicated. “That’s it—you’re cut off. No puking for you, ‘kay?” He sat me down on a couch and returned with a large plastic tumbler (souvenir from an Aggies game) filled with cold water. Cold felt good. I wandered outside, to get some cold air to go with cold liquid. Then I heard screaming. The police had arrived and were busting anyone underage. Oh, shit. I was weeks from my 21st birthday. I edged towards the bushes which outlined their outdoor area, quietly making for the parking lot. I just needed to sit down and breathe, not get arrested.

I found a curb but it was too late, the sudden movement and fear gripping my stomach had already worked against me—I was retching violently and after what I saw, I knew it would be years before I could eat roasted red peppers EVER again. A policeman sauntered up to me and asked if I was done. Terror consumed me. This was it. Oh Shit. Oh fuck. Oh no. My. Father. Will. Murder. Me. When. He. Finds. Out. I. Got. Busted. “How old are you, miss?”

“She’s 21.”

Wha? Who? I groggily looked over at the source of the voice, thinking that “Dimples” didn’t sound like that. Good call on my part, because it was someone else. He was vaguely familiar, he had introduced himself at the ISA meeting and then tried to say “Hi” yesterday while I was on my way to my English class. I had exchanged two sentences with him before rushing off.

“Sure she is.”

“No, really. SheÂ’s my cousin. I was just at her birthday.”

“And I suppose she’s also got the stomach flu and THAT is why she’s puking?”

“Actually, yes.”

The police officer’s walkie-talkie broke the conversation and he rushed off to fry bigger fish.

“You owe me one,” the stranger said, reaching out his hand.

“UmÂ…thanks.”

I got up unsteadily but then sat back down.

“You’re not doing so well. Come on, I’ll take you home.”

“No thank you. I donÂ’t live around here.”

“Then where are you going to go?”

“I’m already staying somewhere. Here. I’m staying here.”

“Uh, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but ‘here’ is not really an option right now.”

“I’m fine, really. Thanks.”

“Suit yourself.”

What was I going to do? In a sense, the guy was right, b/c people were getting written up right and left and everyone else was leaving. All I wanted to do was put my head down somewhere and sleep. Pesto + Coffee + Natty Light + Drama = pain. The car. I could curl up in the mammoth backseat of the car, with its tinted windows and I’d be safe. I started to get up and must have looked like I was too unsteady for that, because the next thing I knew, a different kid was by my side. He looked familiar. Then I realizedÂ…he was a family friend of one of my oldest friends, I had seen him over the years, albeit tangentially.

“You okay?”

Good grief these Indian kids were so nice. Suddenly everyone was my friend and helper.

“I’mÂ…I’m fine. I’m just going to walk to my car—I’m not going to drive, I just want to lie down somewhere that won’t get me arrested.”

He looked at me sympathetically. “Would you like me to drive you to it? I’m parked right here.” He pointed at a car less than six feet away which I immediately recognized as his MomÂ’s. I looked back at the apartment, hoping to see “Dimples” on his way to meÂ…but there was only MORE chaos. Seconds later, I saw “Dimples” gesturing wildly in front of an officer. Grrrreat.

“Okay.”

I got in the back seat and even though he reversed gently, my head was spinning. “I’m sorry…I don’t feel well. Can you stop? Please stop.” Immediately he gingerly re-parked the car.

“Okay. No problem. My mom would KILL me if someone threw up in here. Hey, I have to go find the friend I came with anyway…will you be all right if I just left you here for a second?”

“Sure. I won’t go anywhere.”

I put my head down on the seat and took a deep breath. It felt nice to do so. I took another. After what seemed like hours, he came back, with the friend who had intervened on my behalf with the police officer.

“Well, well, welllll. If it isnÂ’t my sick, long-lost cousin”, he said as he buckled his seat belt.

I sighed. “My car is parked out front, at the corner…”

“What are you going to do, crash in it??”

“Only until I’m well enough to drive. I just want to go home.”

“That’s stupid. Oh…not the going home part, the crashing in a car part. You know, you’re welcome to stay at my place.”

“I don’t even know you, but thanks anyway, I’ll be fine.”

“It’s not safe to sleep in cars.”

“A) This is Davis. B) This is SOUTH Davis. C) I’d love to see someone TRY and get in that car.”

“ItÂ’s really not a big dealÂ…IÂ’ll take the couch. You can have my room. Seriously, don’t be dumb.”

“It’s really nice of you but I’d rather not.”

“Because…”

“Because as nice as you are, I donÂ’t even know you. IÂ’ve never just stayed at…at some guyÂ’s place.”

“Ah. What if it were some GIRL’S place. Then would you feel comfortable?”

“Maybe…”

“That girl you saw me with at the party? Lives across the hall. She’ll totally let you crash.”

I had no idea whom he was talking about, but at that point, I just wanted to sleep. I was destroyed, physically, emotionally, roasted-red-pepperally. I told myself that I didn’t know this girl and that I’d be better off in my car. Then I remembered that story about someone choking on their vomit and dying. Ugh.

“Okay.”

We headed towards campus, parked and walked under a starry ceiling as crickets chirped. Seconds later, we had stopped. My fake cousin knocked on the door and a girl answered. She looked sleepy in her Cal t-shirt and boxer shorts.

“Hey. Can she crash with you? She’s scared of boys.”

“Dude, I would be too. YouÂ’re a freak. What’s your name?”

“Anna…” Lordy, this was no time to be shy. All I could think of was, “You taste like puke, probably smell like a wreck and you are about to impose on this girl. Get over yourself, already.”

“Come on in, Anna. You can totally stay. My roommateÂ’s gone, you can take her bed.”

She opened the door wide and I tentatively stepped in. I turned around to thank the two strange guys who had brought me closer to sleep, a sleep I was looking forward to the way small children dream of Christmas.

“Thanks—“

“Save it. We all want to go to bed. YouÂ’ll be fine. Drink water, take an aspirin and get some sleep.” He gazed over my head, not hard to do because he was a full head taller. “Yo– thanks for letting her stay here. I owe you one.” He turned back to me. “You. Sick girl. Go to bed.”

Sounded good to me. I followed the girl to a dark room which was decorated with the posters you could purchase around the MU at the beginning of every quarter, brought to you by the roving poster people. Ah, yes. Van Gogh’s starry night. Appropriate. I gratefully sank on to a twin-sized bed. My hostess brought me a Tylenol and a blue solo cup filled with tap water. What was with all these damned solo cups? I drank, medicated, drank and then wearily swung my feet up.

“Do you need anything else?”

“No. Thank you so much for letting me stay here.”

She smiled before turning around to leave.

All I wanted was some rest. It had been far too long of a night and I wasn’t looking forward to a Saturday of getting screamed at by my Father while my Mother shook her head and my sister glared at me. Enough. That pain could wait. Right now, I would sleep.

.

When I woke up, there was a hand over my mouth, to prevent me from screaming.

Was this really happening? Wasn’t this guy just helping me not get arrested? Why? As tears rushed down my face, expressing what my muffled voice could not, my hands frantically clawed and pushed. I thought to myself, “Oh my God. Daddy you were right…”

.

.

.

April 3, 2006

Dear Anna:

Sepia Mutiny reports the stories which are in the news – not necessarily all that happened, but all that is reported.

I would urge you to go beyond this, because of something that recently happened. A young woman I know and love dearly was raped, an Indian American woman. How many support groups are there out there for women who endure such horrendous experiences? How many South Asian American women have dealt with such trauma? How many have had to bury their pain within them? Could you write a story asking this question, if only to see what sort of reader responses we get? If only to provide a little support to women who might be silently dealing with this?

It is not a good thing that South Asians are generally in the news here for all the good and amazing things they do and accomplish and earn, it is not an indication that all is bright and cheery for South Asians in the US. On the contrary, I believe that it means that much is not being spoken about, that much is hidden, that ours is a culture in which we brutally punish each other and our loved ones for the sake of painting pretty pictures for society to appreciate, and while we suffocate.

As the only female in this forum, I’m choosing to write to you. Thanks.

.

I’ll never paint pretty pictures unless they portray the truth.

I’m not sure if you even pay attention to this site, but if you’re out there reading this, you are not alone. It was not your fault. Please, talk to someone about what you have endured. I am praying for you to not just survive, but thrive. I know that all you can think about right now is this heinous nightmare, but I promise you, it won’t always dominate your thoughts or haunt your dreams.

If you want to talk to me, I am yours. You don’t need to be suffocated by silence or shame.

suitablegirl@gmail.com

.

I wrote that story the day I got this tip in the mail.

It’s taken me a few more days to publish it because I was scared, worried and filled with doubt. The act of recording my past triggered memories I had long ago left behind. So, wracked with anxiety, I decided that I would come up with another way to write the requested post, without leaving myself so vulnerable. Then, earlier today I realized that my fear of being judged or having this incident used against me was exactly what compelled our anonymous “tipster” to write to me on their friend’s behalf. “I can’t be quiet,” I thought.

But I am not brave. Not even close. I’ll prove it: I’m almost ashamed that a few minutes ago, my heart started to race as I thought, “It’s over now. No one’ll marry you after THIS.”

But that is what I thought. And that is the truth. And that truth is why I have to bare myself, bear terrifying risks and out myself, so that this woman who is just like me, just like my sister, can see me. So she can see that she’s not alone. That it happens to brown girls, too. That it’s not a survivor’s responsibility to feel shame, that such a heavy obligation should belong to the people who were craven and power-hungry enough to commit violence against us.

You are not alone. And neither am I.

I believe in the power of the community we are building here. I believe that I will not be harmed by telling my truth and that this example of acceptance which I have so much faith in will empower you to believe that there are people who would embrace you, wipe the tears from your face and lend you their shoulders to lean on, rather than suffocate you by using fear to silence you, like an unexpected, unwanted hand smothering you in the middle of the night.

286 thoughts on “Whoever You Are, You’re Not Alone.

  1. anna– i am floored.

    i remember reading once about a scenario in which a professor was giving a lecture on war crimes… during the Q+A, an attendee who’d been through horrors like those discussed in the lecture recounted his stories at the hands of evil… at the end of his descriptions, the professor leading the lecture paused, came to his feet, and said something to the effect that in the presence of suffering which we can neither prevent nor personally relate to, the best we can do is stand, as human beings, in empathy.

    consider myself, and many other men, standing.

    a massive amount of respect for sharing your story not only in public, but in the hopes of providing solace to another person.

    god bless. D

  2. I’m actually quite optimistic about the activism…

    I am increasingly optimistic too. Especially in regards to the rape survivor vs. rape victim which you talked about. Words have power. I am also optimistic about the changing conceptualization of rape. This assumption that rape is a crime against a ‘woman’s honour’ is changing. (The old thinking = rape as a crime against a woman’s reputation or dignity rather than her physical-emotional-mental-bodily integrity) Thankfully this is changing, because that kind of framing placed emphasis on the woman’s shame rather than on the perpetrator’s.

    I am glad this space was opened up. And I’d just like to add that not only does Anna show courage, but tremendous generosity. She clearly believed that the good that can come from sharing her story (and the pain involved in digging things up and writing it) far out weighed the potential insensitivity and emotional detachment of comments made by internet folk (i’m talking about those outside SM). You did the work that many of us weren’t able to and I am nothing but THANKFUL and in awe. Anna, please don’t think for a moment that there aren’t many, many, many of us that benefited from this act of compassion, generosity, sincerity, courage, and solidarity.

  3. I don’t think that the “idea” of this post was to end violence. No ONE person can end the tragedy of sexual assault– but they can help a community take the first step to that necessary goal by taking some of the shame away, by starting a discussion like this. The “idea” of this post was to tell someone that she wasn’t the only one who had survived such an awful crime. I’m astonished to read that anyone could think that admitting this ordeal (now for all the world to see and worsen) was some kind of attempt to sensationalize this issue.

    Thanx for saying that. That someone would even imply that there is any sensationalism attached to this as if getting any attention this isssue is “sensationalizing” in itself is beyond me.

  4. Anna – thank you for sharing. Unfortunately, I know many Indian girls and more to whom this has happened to. None of us are alone, we live in a world where sometime these kind of stories cannot be shared. But we have to change that. You are an inspiration for opening your life up to us. I thank God for women like you and the heart you have to help others.

  5. It’s important that we all see this happens in our own community too and it’s important for us to take heed when raising our own families…

    I truly believe that women are the best indicators of the climate of a society.
    Thanks Anna for making us all a bit more stronger. Bravo bella

  6. A story that is truly sad and painful to read. I hope that the perpetrator of this horrific act gets the same treatment in a federal facility for such vile types.

  7. A deep respectful bow to you, dear Anna, in honor of your pain and strength to reveal.

    I, too, didn’t have any brown friends “on the same frequency” before I stumbled across Sepia Mutiny – suddenly, I wasn’t the oddball, culture-straddling 30-something of Indian origin any more. The people I have met through this particular community and our offline interaction have been great sources of solace during my time of intense emotional pain and rehabilitation over the last half a year or so. These people embraced me, wiped the tears from my face and lent me their shoulders to lean on, all without judgment. For that I am ever grateful.

    We are with you.

  8. 144. Posted by Hello, World at April 6, 2006 11:49 PM I pity you. It should not have happened to you.

    Unless you used the word in error, I doubt very much that she, or any other survivor (not victim – Thanks, Shruti) needs your ‘pity’!

    And..

    Do you mean it is okay had this happened/ when this happens with anyone else?

    ???!

  9. Well said RK . Hello World was that a consolation… ?? Who should this happen to according to you ? I’m just curious because I think this is a stereotype that goes with incidents like rape.. that people like you allow yourself to think that a certain kind of female is more prone to a sexual assault.

  10. I pity you. It should not have happened to you.

    I think the ephasis is on the should not, rather than you

    Do you mean it is okay had this happened/ when this happens with anyone else?

    let’s not be obtuse. ;)

    Of course, I understand your points 159 and 160, and they’re valuable one. Just sayin’.

    :)

  11. Unless I am understanding this incorrectly, #144 has the right idea but lacks the capability of expressing it. Hell, sometimes even I beat around the bush a few times, before I can say what I have to say. English is a werry werry Komplikated languaje :-)

  12. geeze…that sounded ignorant. sorry. I didn’t see that in the original post the person’s highlighted you…

    hee, just ignore my last comment. apologies.

  13. I wasn’t the oddball, culture-straddling 30-something of Indian origin any more

    word up on that. while not on par with the rest of the thread in terms of gravity of the situation, i really also want to extend support to those of us who are in this straddling kind of position. I hope we have each other’s backs in this aspect too!

    one love

  14. Anna, I want to say something, but I can’t find the words. I’m so shocked and angered by all of this. I’ve always admired your strength and even more now. I hope you find peace. hugs Luv you darling, ~t~

  15. I am deeply touched by this post. It’s spoken to parts of me that were sleeping for some time now. Thank you Anna.

  16. Hi Anna: I’ve been a lurker on your site for a while now. I always thought you and I had a lot in common; we are both the same age, both lost our fathers. I went through the same thing you did in college, except I wasn’t a “good” girl. As a result, I always blamed myself for what happened. The guy that did it was considered to be the “perfect boy” in the Indian community and he now has the beauty queen wife, perfect family, perfect house, etc. Even if had come forward, nobody would have ever believed me. Thank you for writing your story. It’s made me realize that I am not alone.

  17. I’ve visited a few times now; this is my first post.

    Wow. Truly.

    One of the best pieces I’ve probably read about rape. Probably because a lot of people describe WHAT happens, but nobody puts it in context. You put it into the context of a real, live girl who was just living an ordinary life until this awful thing happened to her.

    You put in your very REAL thoughts. You were open and honest and it made it a really beautiful read… Something encouraging rather than horrifying.

    Thanks. :)

  18. hey anna.. must salute you for the kind of courage u have shown. you are indeed a very brave lady!! I don’t think many people would have the courage to come and speak about it. Have started to admire you… :-)

  19. Hi Anna,

    i never knew of this site…and had no idea what to expect. i got this link from Desipundit and ans I started reading…I just thought u’re vebting feelings against an overprotective family…and as I read till the end..I was totally taken aback.

    I am so so proud of u. Good luck and stay well.

    All good wishes

  20. Wow!

    Amazing courage Anna. As you say, I hope the trauma lessens over time and you thrive, and not just survive! Thanks for writing this.

  21. I’m only an occasional visitor here, but I just had to reply after reading that. That was a powerful post that left me in tears. I’ve never experienced anything remotely close to what you’ve experienced, so I’m sure my words of sympathy and pain won’t really mean much.

    All I can say is thank you for opening our eyes to this issue. As a naive brown girl I didn’t really realize how prevalent this issue was, or just how vulnerable we all are. Please, please let us know how to help those of you who’ve suffered. This is one cause I’d be happy to fight for.

  22. It takes true guts to come out and speak about it for the sake of creating awareness and support. You are doing a great job.

    But I sincerely hope that you showed greater courage and took some action against that sick guy back then.

    Also, lets face it – partying and having a good time is fun. But drinking all night with a bunch of drunk guys (forget age) is definitely dangerous – has always been dangerous and WILL always be in any city in any country in the world. So its upto you girls to make wise decisions and avoid situations which can leave indelible scars deep inside.

    Sometimes its important to be old-fashioned and yeah, couldnt resist adding this – Listen to your parents.

    Reminds me of what late former Chief Minister of Kerala, E.K Nayanar once said “As long as women are there, there will be rapes”. Very true but politically incorrect and he got truck-loads for that.

    But he has a point, these things are part of nature – ugly parts. We have to live with it. But its in YOUR hands to avoid being in such situations and ensure that you are not the unfortunate one.

    Basically what I intend to say is – Do not invite trouble. Hope those who read this carry home the message.

  23. Anna, You. Are. Amazing.

    Don’t ever forget that. Ever.

    Thanks for this. Too many South Asian girls, including a friend of mine, are too scared to talk about abuse. This will help more people than you’ll know. I don’t even know what I’m saying right now. I guess, just thanks.

  24. This is the most moving post I have read in a long long time.

    I strongly disagree with rahul’s comment here. i think that a higher complaint, conviction rate and modern forensics can really help improve the situation.

    I just want Anna to know. Its not you who committed the mistake, it was those other guys.

  25. But he has a point, these things are part of nature – ugly parts. We have to live with it. But its in YOUR hands to avoid being in such situations and ensure that you are not the unfortunate one.

    This is NOT TRUE. How many news stories have you read in which an intruder has broken into a home and raped a woman? How many little girls have been molested or raped by their own fathers, uncles, etc? I grew up with 6 desi girls that have experienced this. A few of them told family members, but it was kept hidden so that no one in the community would find out. One girl, who was molested by her mother’s brother, was told by her own mother that it was her fault and that she must have done something to seduce him. She said she knows her brother would never do something like that. It can happen anywhere to anyone.

  26. So its upto you girls to make wise decisions and avoid situations which can leave indelible scars deep inside.

    NO IT IS NOT. This is what you’re basically saying: Don’t go out late at night. Because if you do, it’s your fault. Don’t wear sexy clothes. Because if you do, it’s your fault. Don’t drink. Because if you do, it’s your fault. Don’t Don’t Don’t ……. Because if you do, it’s your fault. Thanks for blaming the victim. (survivor, as I would say)

    In my last post I stated: -rape is an infringement on women’s rights -women’s rights are human rights -human rights are the responsibility of all humans It’s everyone’s responsibility. And in my personal opinion, it’s more men’s responsibility than women’s responsibility.

    Sometimes its important to be old-fashioned and yeah, couldnt resist adding this – Listen to your parents.

    In this context, “old-fashioned”=regressive and “Listen to your parents”=blame yourself for getting raped. Thanks again for your wisdom.

    Reminds me of what late former Chief Minister of Kerala, E.K Nayanar once said “As long as women are there, there will be rapes”. Very true but politically incorrect and he got truck-loads for that.

    I never know what people mean when they say “politically incorrect,” but how about this: “As long as men are there, there will be rapes” I actually don’t agree with that, but tell me, how does it feel to hear someone put the responsibility on you, the man for a crime that gasp is committed by men? (note: I’m aware of exceptions to this generalization, but I’m more than comfortable making it because it is heavily, heavily substanciated)

    But he has a point, these things are part of nature – ugly parts. We have to live with it.

    Natural=inherent. There is nothing inherent about this. What you call “nature” is merely habit- one that is reinforced every time a man that sexually assaults a woman does not receive justice for his crime. So as far as I can tell from your logic, the only “ugly parts” are men… and I do not like to believe this about men. Men are not inherently viscious sexual predators any more than women are inherently sexual deviants who need to be locked up in a closet by their parents.

    But its in YOUR hands to avoid being in such situations and ensure that you are not the unfortunate one. Basically what I intend to say is – Do not invite trouble. Hope those who read this carry home the message.

    No, how about it’s in YOUR hands? How about… don’t rape women? How about… do not bring trouble?

    fuming

  27. Anna,

    Phenomenal woman. I have been reading and re-reading this post and I know that it will remain with me for some time to come. Sometimes there are no words but thank you.


    Rahul,

    Oh dear god, Rahul…

    Having just read your comment, I’m sitting here with my hands shaking, my blood pressure rising, my heart breaking. But let me tell you where I almost lost it, Rahul – “it’s up to you girls to make wise decisions and avoid situations which can leave indelible scars deep inside”

    Your antediluvian implication that women go to parties, drink and pull out “RAPE ME” placards is beyond frightening. I regretfully admit that I didn’t realize the full extent to which people still blame survivors for their wounds until I came to Kerala eight months ago.

    But let’s put aside the day-to-day hypocrisies of this purportedly progressive state and discuss one of Kerala’s greatest shames, namely E.K. Nayanar and his retrograde notions about women and rape. Nayanar being the genius who brought us such hits as ‘rape-is-as-common-in-the-U.S.-as-having-a-cup-of-tea’ and ‘why-y’all-making-such-a-fuss-about-that-gang-rape-of-that-girl-in-Suryanelli-since-rape-happens-all-the-time?’, I hardly think that his wisdom is worth spreading to the masses. As a Malayali, a woman, a human being, I am disgusted.

    Whereas Anna’s post left me without words, yours has left me trying to distill the four-letter-word-stream-of-rage coursing through my head into something more coherant. There is so much more to say, but I am exhausted from thinking about how many people there are in this world who think like you do. And seeing as how it’s not even dawn in most of America, I suspect you’ll be drowning in a landslide of verbal eviscerations a few hours from now anyhow.

    Before I end though, let me just ask you; has it ever – E V E R – occured to you that perhaps EVERYONE has a right to live their life with dignity? That no one ever asks to be raped? That maybe instead of exhorting girls to listen to their parents, parents seriously need to start raising their sons a little differently?

    You have egregiously insulted honorable men everywhere as well as anyone who has survived an unspeakable act of sexual violence. I suggest you learn about what you’re talking about and offer profuse apologies all around.

  28. What Shruti and Kavita just wrote, especially:

    Shruti:

    There is nothing inherent about this. What you call “nature” is merely habit- one that is reinforced every time a man that sexually assaults a woman does not receive justice for his crime.

    kavita:

    That maybe instead of exhorting girls to listen to their parents, parents seriously need to start raising their sons a little differently?

    There’s this pervasive idea that women need to be careful because men can’t be held responsible for our actions because we’re “naturally” “that way.” It’s 2006 – I think the time for dealing politely with such an idea is over.

  29. To Anna:

    Being an intensely private person myself, I have great respect for what you wrote, exposing one of the brutal realities of your life. That definitley takes fortitude and strength, that many people probably don’t know. After reading all the comments, I think you have clearly touched many readers in a positive way and have implicit support from many.


    While I don’t agree with what Rahul wrote… I can see some value in his commentary that I think others are missing, and that is, one needs to protect himself/herself, from any act of violence. If that means taking precautions and avoiding certain situations, then that is what one must do. As an off-the-cuff example, I wouldn’t ever go to SouthEast DC in the middle of the night, because there stands a good chance of being the victim of a crime. I think Rahul had some elements of that advice in his comments. One must always be aware of their surroudings. As a frequent business traveler, I live by such rules. To do otherwise puts one at a higher risk.

  30. No one is saying women shouldn’t protect themselves from violence. The question is why such brutal and scarring violence is inflicted by men upon women so frequently and with what ultimately amounts to society’s consent to rape as a means to reinforce the current hierarchy of gender. I think you are giving Rahul too much credit. There are clear implications of him shifting the responsibility for sexual assault onto women.

  31. I didn’t comment to give him credit, but to highlight that in his commentary there was a nugget of wisdom IMHO. I think you can extract the good pieces of his post and find value. Apparently, we disagree though……..

    Your question of why such scarring violence happens is simple. Power corrupts, whether a man or woman holds it. Assume the current gender heirarchy were reversed. Would that change the level of violence? Do you believe that power still wouldn’t be abused? Rape is just one method in which power can be abused. I don’t see this as a gender issue, but an issue of human nature.

    With great power, comes great responsibility…..

  32. Rahul’s post (#177) demonstrates the ignorance that exists out there. If only violent crimes against women could be eradicated by us all listening to our parents! A good point was raised in response, however, lets all raise our sons to know better–that’s so important, that’s so promising, there is hope….

  33. I can’t stop shaking after reading that story. Anna, I just don’t know what to say. Thank you for telling the story that many cannot.

  34. I have been to a few desi parties in my days. I hope every girl understands the mindset of SOME of the guys who come there. I have seen some of these guys in every desi party i have been to. Being a guy myself, it is an insult to say that girls have to be carefull and protect themself from my lack of self control. But the fact is that these guys have perfect self control and it is part of their grand plan to get laid. When the party starts, these guys are usually happy and hopfull. As the party comes to a close, after a few drinks, hope turns to dispair and you see these guys throw themselves at every girl with a pulse. It is not a good atmosphere. You can never say that its the girls fault. It is ALWAYS a guys fault. I feel that the Indian community needs to reevaluate how we raise our boys. I would not want my sister or daughter to go to a Desi party, not because i don’t trust them, but because i know SOME of the guys who predictably find their way there. Rahul, please don’t make us look any worse than we do with such posts. Unlike you, i realize these guys come, but also realise its not the girls fault. Thumbs down to Desi parties!

  35. Anna, It was incredibly brave of you to share this with us. I am sure that by sharing your story you have helped many people deal with their own stories. I admire you and you have inspired me.

    Best Wishes

  36. how predictable the same age-old victim-blaming bullshit would crop up. on the note of misogyny in desi parties, i remember i had sent this article some years ago to indus forum (uc berkeley’s desi club listserv), and it became the all-time most controversial article ever to have hit that listserv, with months and months of discussion and men (and a few women) ganging up on me and saying it was male-bashing and women need to act or not act a certain way if they want to be respected, etc. that’s a pretty fucking pathetic reaction if you ask me. there is something very wrong with the messages our society gives to men about the entitlement they have over women’s bodies, and that needs to change very soon, because limiting women’s freedom is not the answer.

  37. and the idiots at livejournal STILL won’t leave her alone. i’m ashamed i even have an account for leaving comments there after this. is this what the next generation of south asian americans is like? criticizing a rape survivor because her story wasn’t written well-enough, was “cliche-ridden” and read like “veronica mars fanfic”? and then lauding those who criticize her as being the TRULY brave ones, who have the guts to go against the crowd? my god.

  38. There’s this pervasive idea that women need to be careful because men can’t be held responsible for our actions because we’re “naturally” “that way.” It’s 2006 – I think the time for dealing politely with such an idea is over.

    Very good point. And not just sons, I think the community itself must realize the existence of such brutalities. As a point made earlier in one of comments that there is life after rape, what about families living by the idea that once a girl is raped no one will marry her ?? These are the VALUES that we are allowing our society to have. We raise not only our SONS with these values , We raise our DAUGHTERS with the idea that they must remain PURE (mainly in the physical sense) to be considered DECENT and ACCEPTABLE, a decade earlier we had movies where if a girl were to be raped the solution to the problem would be for her to take her life, thankfully now there are movies that deal somewhat with the aftermath where death is not the only option. I bring this point about the movies because lets face it they are shaping and reflecting our society.

  39. Anna, I recently started reading SM and felt especially drawn to your writing. The spirit, verve, way with words,…is simply unique and unmatchable. Reading this last from you has left me numb, angry, and very protective of you. Strange since I have never met you and you don’t know me from Adam but such was the power of your experience and my response to it.

    Those that don’t respect the rights of others don’t deserve rights themselves. I can imagine what it must feel to see your trust in others being violated in a manner so base. It just makes me boil with anger.

    You have won over them, Anna. By writing about it you have demonstrated you are a winner. By achieving so much since and moving on you have triumphed. That to me is divine justice.

  40. so you don’t have to visit such a pathetic blog:

    It’s an awful piece of writing, full of cliches. Short nondescript sentences, stream of consciousness commentary, much unnecessary detail, a prolonged conclusion — to name a few. It’s predictable, pretentious and extremely boring. I pointed out how bad the author’s writing skills were. I wasn’t judging this person or trying to belittle their traumatic experience. In fact, I said absolutely nothing about the article, except for the technical aspects of it and people think I’m being callous. I’m not insensitive to issues of sexual abuse, having been through it myself for many years. If I choose to write about it, though, there’s no excuse for third-rate Veronica Mars fanfic.

    I’m not surprised at the superlatives in the comments section of the blog. It’s the same reason Crash won Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the Oscars. People reward mediocre writing all the time. But go ahead and read it. I guess it’s important that people talk about such experiences, even if they do write like a 13 year-old who just read her first Christopher Pike novel. If it inspires someone to talk about a similar event in their own life, then good for them.

    and THIS in response:

    That story writing was terrible. I had no idea where the hell she was going with that, until the end, when I realized it was her getting raped (I assume!). I agree that it was way too pretentious and the author got side tracked way too much. I think that it’s important that she got it out there. Maybe it was hard for me to relate to her, besides being a woman, since I’m not brown. I dunno. I’m not sure I’d be able to do much better (writing) if I were writing about something tramatic like that.

    that’s just fantastic. now women have to be scared that IF they do find the courage to speak painful words about tragedy, that they need to be perfect while doing so? i’m almost out of “that’s fucked up.” where are our priorities?

  41. Anna,

    I have read all the comments. I have following this thread very closely for few without uttering a word. Anything, I will say will sound shallow.

    I laud your courage. This is very brave. May you thrive.

    Please ignore the livejournal crowd, if you can. They have lost humanity.

    To the livejournal crowd (who are lurking @ SM), sure people criticize writings from literary viewpoint, but at proper time and place. This is neither. If you nothing to say (livejournal commenters), be quiet.

  42. I agree with KT.

    The livejournal BS is unreal.
    Seriously.

    May I prescribe you (livejournal bunch) some lomotil, or immodium to stop your crap from seeping around.

  43. I don’t think Rahul was blaming women for getting raped, or suggesting that just by listening to your parents, you can avoid a violent crime like that, and I disagree with a lot of what he said, but I do agree that sometimes we can avoid putting ourselves in situations (guy or girl) which could potentially be harmful. There is scum out there in the world, and always will be. There is absolutely no excuse for a man raping a woman, drunk or not, but as a woman, I understand that I am vulnerable to it. We know that it happens in all stratas of society, to people of all ages, and sometimes at home by people you think you know and trust. It is such a violent, unhuman, cowardly act, so why not always be aware of it and do what we can to protect ourselves. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying it’s a woman’s job to avoid rape by curtailing our freedom, and men can go around doing what they want. But just be aware of our surroundings whether it’s walking down the street or at a party.

  44. Dear Anna,

    I also want to thank you very much for your courage to speak out. But more than that, I want promise you and myself that I will do whatever I can, as modest as it may be, to create a world free from the threat of sexual violence against anyone. As progressive as I may claim to be, I was born into same world and socialized in the very same way as these men who do things and say things I absolutely abhor, that make me ill to think about. But these men were born into the same world, and taught in exactly the same way, about what it means to be a man. Rape is a sick, sick, disgusting act, but it is only a symptom of a disease. It is a symptom of a world in which men are taught that being a man means domination of women. I was socialized in that very same way. So, my promise to you, to myself, and to the world, is that my struggle will be inward, outward and lifelong.

    I also want to direct everyone’s attention to the BLANK NOISE PROJECT which is an effort to bring attention to eve teasing and sexual violence in India. I hope that we at the SM community take the feelings and energy we found reading Anna’s post and create something positive. I would love to work with others on thinking about what we at the SM community can do to make sure that this dialogue continues.

  45. The livejournal thing is the most fucked up thing I ever saw….those chicks need serious mental evaluation. And to think they’re becoming doctors? God help us all, it’s just not right.

    I think they’re jealous you have the courage to be so strong, Anna, so don’t listen to these snotty bitches. I bet their panties are in a wad because they know they’d never come forward with such a story, for fear of not making a suitable marriage match or someother fucked up reason. Typical pretentious bitches who only care what others think. From their postings it looks like they prefer such things be hidden in society.

    These “omg, lol, i’m such a rebel” chicks need lessons in reality. I would never wish rape on anyone, but I’m almost wishing they experienced something traumatic just to get a grip on humanity and reality. Let’s see how they feel then when someone belittles them in their lowest moments.

    I don’t know, under all that designer clothing and medical degrees a lot of desi kids are just animals, especially the guys (not the people here though…you guys are the nicest and coolest I’ve come across). From the desi party circuit to these stupid livejournal comments, this entire post has only proved to me why the desi community is so screwed up.

    I don’t agree with a lot of the comments above saying women should avoid partying to avoid getting raped, but I do agree there’s a small kernel of truth in avoiding potentially dangerous situations. Desi parties generally give me bad vibes so I avoid them like the plague. It like the guys there are animalistic and desperate.